Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The National Archives

Housed in the East Block, the display rooms of the National Archives are quite interesting.    Like the National Library, one hopes that what is on display is only the tip of the iceberg and that somewhere there are warehouses full of historical records.    Like the the bookstacks that I now understand the National Library has in an out-of-town warehouse, boxes of old documents aren't on display at the main Archives building!

I visited the Archives when in Canberra, and the material on display was interesting, even though the  theme is similar to that encountered elsewhere in Canberra:  a look at aspects of our country's history (often through a "politically correct" lens).  The first room is an introduction to the Archives' work, and is called "Memories of a Nation".   Other areas deal with early photographs of Canberra (the Mildenhall photos) and there's quite an area devoted to the Snowy scheme.

At present, there's also a special exhibition called "I've been Working on the Railway", devoted to the experiences of indigenous people working on railway construction and maintenance in the 50s, 60s and 70s.   This was an era that included the re-construction of the Mt Isa railway as well as the large scale construction of the first Bowen Basin coal lines and Pilbara iron ore lines.    Apparently many indigenous people were employed on these projects, which involved hard physical work, separation from families and camp life.   I found this well presented and interesting, although it needs to be remembered that although indigenous people were involved in this work, and the display is all about their story, other people were also involved - a fact that, at least so far as I could see, was only mentioned once.   It would be helpful to know, for example, what percentage they comprised of the workforce, even if only an approximation.

It was also interesting to have the opportunity to see inside parts of the East Block, one of the original Canberra buildings.

1 comment:

  1. The recent SBS TV series "Persons of Interest" was based on material from the National Archives.